Hockey October 17, 2018


One month into the 2018-19 season, and the Brooks Bandits are back in
familiar territory – atop the Alberta Junior Hockey League standings.

The Bandits, who will welcome the nation as hosts of Canada’s National
Junior A Championship next spring, have run off 11 consecutive wins after a
season-opening setback, and this week ascended to the No. 1 spot in the
CJHL Top 20 national rankings.

Brooks is no stranger to the top of the AJHL; the last time it finished
outside the top three in the regular season was 2010-11, and the last seven
years have included three regular-season titles, four playoff crowns and a
national championship in 2013.

But the long journey to May 11 began with a sizable speed bump – the
Bandits went on the road to Drumheller in mid-September and suffered an
11-3 loss to the Dragons, their largest regular-season defeat since
November 2008.

They righted the ship with a convincing 9-3 win over the Calgary Canucks
two nights later and haven’t looked back, outscoring their opponents 53-24
since opening night.

“After the first game we kind of had a little meeting, and we talked about
how much we have to work harder and how much this league is going to be
harder this year,” veteran forward Arnaud Vachon told ChatNewsToday.ca.
“That’s basically what we’ve been doing, every shift we’ve been pushing
hard, every line has been going, and it’s been working out.”

Vachon is one of four Bandits – alongside Luke Bast, Nathan Plessis and
Jake Theis – who were part of the team that reached the national
championship game in 2017, giving back a late lead before falling in
overtime to the host Cobourg Cougars.

A guaranteed spot in the national tournament means a guaranteed shot at
redemption for the quartet.

“It’s unreal, especially for some of the guys here two times in three
years,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to show how Brooks is
good.”

The Bandits have rolled over their roster from 2017-18 with 15 new
additions in the line-up, including a familiar name for Brooks fans –
Taylor Makar, the younger brother of two-time national championship MVP
(and World Juniors gold medallist) Cale Makar.

It has been Plessis and Quebec import William Lemay doing the heavy lifting
early with 15 points apiece, while Pierce Charleson has grabbed the reins
in goal, posting a 2.08 GAA and .911 save percentage during the 11-game win
streak.

There is a long way to go, but Brooks has a little bit of recent history on
its side; the host team has claimed Canada’s National Junior A Championship
in three of the last four years, with Cobourg’s win over the Bandits
sandwiched between the Portage Terriers (2015) and Chilliwack Chiefs
(2018).

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